- Mad? Oh, yes, the traditional accusation! And next you'll be telling me it's all because I'm misunderstood! All the great monsters were misunderstood! Mr. Hyde-- Frankenstein's creation-- Dracula-- The Golem-- all of them! But not me! Not Basil Karlo! Not the Ultimate Clayface! My intentions will be clear from the start! I will take what I want-- when I want it! And any who stand in my way shall-- burn!
- — Clayface src
Basil Karlo was the first Clayface. Originally only an actor who could change the shape of his face, he worked with the other more advanced Clayfaces in the Mud Pack and turned himself into an Ultimate Clayface with their genetic material.
Origin and Early History
Basil Karlo was an actor who was driven mad when he learned of a remake of his classic horror film Dread Castle, even though he was to be one of the advising staff. Donning a mask made of clay, he embarked on a murder spree among the cast of the remake. He started killing the actors playing characters he killed in the order and way they died in the film. He was foiled by Batman and Robin and was sent to prison.
He reappeared after the prison ambulance he was riding in plunged off a cliff. Once again, he donned the mask of Clayface and targeted Bruce Wayne's fiancee and upcoming actress, Julie Madison and just like before, he was stopped by the dynamic duo.
The Mud Pack
Years later, Karlo languished in a prison hospital, when the current Clayface, Sondra Fuller visited him out of curiosity. Karlo proposed an alliance between all living Clayfaces to kill Batman. However, Karlo's intentions were other than just wreack havoc and get revenge on Batman. Acting as the leader of the Mud Pack, Karlo instructed Fuller to break Clayface III out of Arkham Asylum, while he went on to retrieve the last remains of Matt Hagen, the second Clayface. Although Hagen could not be revived, Karlo made use of Clayface III and Fuller to his own advantage.
After a successful encounter with Batman and their apparent victory over the Dark Knight, Karlo double-crossed Fuller and stole a blood sample from her as well as Clayface III in order to imbue himself with the samples and become the Ultimate Clayface. Although Karlo's plan was successful and he did became the most powerful Clayface, he was defeated by the combined efforts of Batman and Looker of the Outsiders, who overloaded his abilities, making him melt the ground and causing him to plunge directly to Earth's core.
Freedom and Ivy
After his defeat, Clayface sunk into the Earth's crust until he was stopped by a formation of quartz crystals. He remained trapped in that spot for years, but due to his new physiology, he survived and even gained new powers due to the exposure to the crystals. Eventually, Clayface was able to escape his underground prison when Gotham City was struck by the great cataclysm. He was able to capture Batman and was about to kill him, but he got into a feud with Mr. Freeze about who should kill the Caped Crusader. With that distraction, Batman soundly defeated both of them.
Some time later and as a result of the cataclysm, Gotham was abandoned by the US Government, becoming an official No Man's Land. During this time, Clayface held Poison Ivy, who was in charge of producing fresh vegetables for the remaining people in the city, prisoner in Robinson Park. Poison Ivy eventually battled and defeated Clayface with Batman's assistance, leaving him rooted into the ground with her vines.
Clayface resurfaced as a member of the Secret Society of Super Villains. Later, he sought to increase his already formidable powers by absorbing Wonder Woman (a clay construct similar to him), giving him an amount of power that bordered on invulnerability. While he was successful in absorbing some of the heroine's powers, causing her to regress to a teenage appearance resembling Donna Troy, he is ultimately returned to normal when Wonder Woman and Donna were able to trick Clayface into entering a train carriage with Wonder Woman while she was disguised as Donna, Donna subsequently using the Lasso of Truth to swing the carriage around and turn it into a mystical centrifuge, causing the clay Clayface had taken from Wonder Woman to split away from him and re-merge with Wonder Woman due to the differences between the two types of clay.
Basil Karlo was among the members of the Injustice League and was among the villains that were exiled to the planet Salvation by Checkmate. He and others eventually retured to Earth and became a member of Libra's Secret Society of Super Villains. In this capacity, Karlo triggered an explosion at the Daily Planet under Libra's orders when Lex Luthor demands for Libra to do something that will draw Superman to them.
Powers and Abilities
- Malleable Clay-like Body: Being chemically altered gave him the ability to regenerate his body mass, change his shape, size, density and shape-shift into any form he could think of.
- Basil Karlo was introduced during the Golden Age era of publication, which set Earth-Two as the universe in which the Golden Age characters and stories took place. However, his origin and early history remained unchanged until the Modern Age of comics after the Crisis on Infinite Earths. For this reason, it is safe to assume that the Clayface featured in the original Golden Age stories is the same character as the Modern Age Clayface.
- Basil Karlo/Clayface made two appearances in Earth-One continuity in Batman #208, which retells in flashback his origin from Detective Comics #40, and Detective Comics #496, where he was killed. The latter event is not considered part of the character's history, as it contradicts his later appearances. In this issue, Karlo was committed to Arkham Asylum as deemed criminally insane.
- The character's name, "Basil Karlo" was based upon famed horror actors Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone. Bob Kane has also stated that he drew inspiration from The Phantom of the Opera as portrayed by Lon Chaney to develop the concept of Clayface.
- Clayface is immune to those with the power of geokinesis, such as Geo-Force, claiming it be because he is "a force of nature."
- Basil Karlo used to wear a "clayface mask" to terrify people during his crimes. He discarded the mask after gaining his unique physiology during the The Mud Pack storyline.
- 70 Appearances of Basil Karlo (New Earth)
- 48 Images featuring Basil Karlo (New Earth)
- 9 Quotations by or about Basil Karlo (New Earth)
- Character Gallery: Basil Karlo (New Earth)
- Detective Comics #607
- Detective Comics #40
- Detective Comics #49
- Secret Origins (Volume 2) #44
- Detective Comics #604
- Detective Comics #605
- Detective Comics #606
- Batman: Shadow of the Bat #75
- Batman: Shadow of the Bat #88
- Batman #568
- Detective Comics #735
- Wonder Woman (Volume 2) #160
- Wonder Woman (Volume 2) #161
- Final Crisis #2
- "Batman and Me" - Bob Kane's Autobiography (1989)
- Outsiders (Volume 4) #22
Injustice League member
Secret Society of Super-Villains member